i have a life in switzerland

..I am packing a life, moving – not certain if forward, or into ‘next’ -but knowing that solid ground gave out to other choices, and my – exile further on..

Author's Note: 

This short story, written as memoir & observation speaking into ‘otherness’, identity.. came about as something of an ex-pat’s journey in 1998, in the changing world of Europe..




It’s been numbed to this.

In the six years, there have been many pictures taken of us together. 

They are all, still in their little photo folders. Returned from the shop; riffled through -and put away. 

The photos are not memories; we don’t go back to them.


The ring is simple. 

Two concentric rounds of gold; jointed with platinum. A diamond chip sits in a platinum scrap. The whole, functions as something of a monkey puzzle -collapsing and contorting in various fashions. 

I’ll keep this.

The closets are full of clothes: Armani, Versace -GAP. I’ll take them. Most of them.

The walls have ART. The best choices are mine. They are smaller pieces concerned more with mood than bombast -or shock -or grandiosity.

The furniture is expensive -masculine -perfect. It belongs in its setting softening the vacuum of our –the, flat.

The garden is cowering from winter. But it is still manicured and visually splendid. Very English; very classy. Very well attended.

The kitchen is my greatest achievement. Gutted -and then created with an eye to function and practicality. I am something of a chef -and my crucible is the stove. The temple surrounding it, has nothing more to offer. It should be discrete.

When there is sunlight, it is everywhere. One of the things we liked about the place. One of the things that spoke in the place. One of the things I can’t take with me.

But the ring..-the ring is the most eloquent memento. Simple -discrete -rich -tasteful -cold. Elegant. We were elegant.

I was elegant. It rubbed off. Then, ‘we’ were elegant. And invincible.

Men are bastards. We are.




“How do you say ‘forever’ in German?”


“It’s such a transient word. I wondered if it translated.”

“Don’t get all philosophical.”

“Men are-”

“Bastards. You’ve said that already. -He’s got someone else.”

“Fait accompli.”

“And you have to decide-”

“Nothing. I have to decide -nothing. -He’s German. It’s decided for me.”

“You didn’t love him. What hurts?”

“That I failed anyway. -That’s funny?”

“A nice little black boy from Harlem -in England -with a German mover and shaker for a lover. That’s not the stuff of forever anyway.”

“How would you know?”

“Traveling Man. That’s what you need. Someone going somewhere and fighting to do it.”

“I liked being happy. -Oh that’s funny too?”

“Let me tell you something. I’m older and wiser. And better looking.”

“I said I’d pay for lunch. You don’t need to flatter me.”

“And I am twice as dark as your peaky skin. My man is as English as English can get. And I love him. Because he knows how to leave me alone. But you and I come from the same place -the same tangled issues. We carry a mine field where ever we go. -You’ve been lazy. And you’re lucky. -Forever isn’t transient. Mistakes are. Get over it. Get out of it. Move on.”


second exile


The sun is at its winter -low on the horizon. It clips through the blinds above my bed - projects a prodigious rose color on the curtains.

Amsterdam, now. Sunday morning. I stretch. Listen. I am surrounded by churches of various denominations. And towers, for the sake of bells. The tolling creates an angular sequence of sound.

It’s early, but I dress and move out to investigate the day.

Near the Musiktheater, a young man in fashionable leather is knocking out another cigarette from his pack. 

He is rummaging a hand over prickly blond hair. His eyes squint. His steps take him in a wide circle about the river lookout. He can’t sit - won’t decide to move farther on, or be still and watch the sun finish mounting the Amstel.

A television crew of three, are filming in the cul de sac of the theater entrance. 

They are acres away from the curved immobile door -but something is in the focus of the camera’s eye. I see nothing in its sight -except debris: last bits from the great Christmas tree - now gone; papers and wrappers - dirt and dust and brick.

They’ve got their shot - pack up.

A boy - 

a student with a carton of tomato juice, is at a call box. He has the coin out - but the phone only takes phone cards. I pass him -and hear him vomit. Turn back- and see chunky red, spew against the phone booth wall. He grips the carton of juice -heaving; his other hand, holding his winter coat out of danger. He doesn’t teeter on his heels -or make any sound in his efforts to reject whatever has caused this. He finishes- stares at the result as though searching for the mechanism. Violently shakes his chin of wet -walks off. Drinking.

The sun is full on the plaza now.

An early tour barge slides beneath the glassed canopy of The Mercury, the restaurant of the Hotel de l’Europe. I cross a canal bridge - watching. “Lovers” -in bold blue- is scrawled along its side. In their own canopied tank, a gathering of tourists: disbelieving of the gorgeous morning- the low, splendid buildings -the solemn opportunity to dream, awake. 

So they expose the balance to flashbulbs; struggling over one another [after a nanosecond’s pause]- to secure that perfect shot.

The Episcopal Church of Amsterdam is a bridge or two further. It’s innocuously squat between better buildings. 

The flag of St. George flutters in the faces of anyone who knows to notice. The church is virtually nondescript: old brick -low portals; no spire -no adornment, except St. George’s banner. And the discretely worn words: Episcopal Church -carved into the sandstone lintel.

In front of me, a family is making its way there.

Twin infants in a duo buggy -big Black daddy pushing, puffed out in a yellow snug cocoon. He’s dressed for skiing, mind -nowhere near God. He’s using the buggy to clear a path through no one else; he is skiing.

Mama’s in a dark coat. A printed dress -white and black splotches; low heel black shoes spread to contain her broad feet. Her head is bowed- another child in hand isn’t speaking.

They turn right, off the tiny pont. Step into church.

I move into town and buy my papers.

A foreigner - devoted to even more foreign news: The Sunday Times and The Independent. It’s funny how British my Sundays have gone.

No wonder. Amsterdam is the second exile; England was the first. 

Eight years of it; eight years without the Sunday New York Times.

But news is news.

And then again..-not.  

The world is greater than a murder in Itching, West Connecticut. The world news, covering more things than an American city editor would headline. 

I’m on the continent now, closer to London’s reactive manipulations. There’s no catering here. Europe doesn’t linger on the words of American decrees anymore. What’s happening here ‘at home’ is far more pressing.